Way back in 2003 Creat Studios released a radio-controlled car-racing game for the PlayStation 2. It was called Smash Cars and, delving back into my murky memory, I can say with some confidence that it was a solid little game which was quite enjoyable. This, however, is not a review for a six-year-old PlayStation 2 game. You see, there was a recent release of an RC racing game called Smash Cars on the PSN. Don’t worry, it’s not copyright infringement, this PSN version was also released by Creat Studios (and Tik Games) and on first impressions it also seems like a fairly solid, enjoyable little arcade racing game.
Let’s get the technical stuff out of the way. The frame-rate never slows or stutters, the textures are good and lighting is nice. The controls are responsive and as intuitive as they need to be. Sound is solid but largely unremarkable with a very irritating menu tune which loops endlessly in the background. In short, everything which should be perfect is there, doing its job and making sure you don’t get too distracted from the game-play.
The track design is very good with the timings for medals (bronze, silver and gold medals are awarded at ten-second intervals for time trials or positioning in the races) just about perfect to keep it challenging but achievable. The action takes place on an island with four zones and different sections being virtually roped-off as your tracks. Completing races unlocks new tracks and customisation options for your cars (including chassis and car bodies which affect performance and paint and decal options which affect appearance).
The boost mechanic is a familiar one to fans of arcade racers and it is implemented very well in Smash Cars. You will need to use your boost often to win gold medals but it replenishes via the simple trick system of flips and rolls so as long as you know your track you can always keep your boost tank topped up with a timely back-flip. The basic (and easy to achieve) stunts will become repetitive over time but the tension does not lie in whether you will land the stunt (I almost never failed to land one), it lies in whether you should attempt the jump in the first place or try to keep your wheels (and therefore traction and speed) on the floor. The margins for winning or losing are close enough that you will always need to think of when best to use your boost. Balancing boost-replenishing stunts with speed-maintaining traction is interesting and entertaining but perhaps lacks the longevity you might want from a $14.99 game.
The game feels fun with good tracks, decent opponents, plenty of obstacles and the odd shortcut to keep things interesting but it does suffer from an all-too-familiar problem: it feels almost unfinished in terms of the content it provides. It almost feels like you’ve downloaded a sampler but the rest of the game is “coming soon”. I assume this is because there will be plentiful downloadable content released in coming months but it would have been nice to have just a little bit more in the initial package so that we don’t feel quite so much like we’ve bought into a system of content delivery rather than a proper game.
The multiplayer is online-only and very basic. You can race against opponents on any of the tracks but there are no different race modes or game-types to keep you interested. Again, this feels like something which is planned for the future via DLC but it would make for a much more complete game if there was an extra option or two now. It would also make the purchase price a lot more attractive.
Basically Smash Cars is a fun and very well-balanced game with great potential but it is let down by a repetitive stunt mechanic and a scarcity of content. With a couple more multiplayer modes and a few more tracks I would have no hesitation in recommending this but unless some of the, obviously-planned, DLC is released very quickly and is very competitively priced Smash Cars might be too little for too much. Probably the best “little car” racer on the PlayStation Network but could have been much more.